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Woman who duped travelers nabbed

POLICE OPERATIVES arrested a 26-year-old woman in an entrapment operation  before noon on Friday in Manila for allegedly defrauding some 100 travelers of more than P1 million by posing as an employee of a travel agency.

Hershery Salanguit, of 144 P. Rinozo St., Barangay (village) 09, Nasugbu, Batangas, was nabbed by operatives of the Manila Police District General Assignment Section (MPD-GAS) on the complaints of the Morning Express Travel and Tours based in Ermita, Manila, and one of her alleged victims.

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Madelyn Bumataw, a resident of Parañaque City and one of the victims, made a phone call to the travel agency to check on Salanguit’s credentials.  As soon as Bumataw and Morning Express Travel got wind of Salanguit’s activities, they sought the help of the MPD-GAS.

An entrapment operation was then planned.

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Bumataw arranged a meeting with Salanguit at a fast-food restaurant along T.M. Kalaw Ave. in Ermita, Manila, for the purchase of a plane ticket to Hong Kong for P10,000.

As soon as the suspect received the marked money and issued a receipt of the Morning Express travel agency to Bumataw,  the policemen immediately arrested Salanguit and brought her to the MPD-GAS.

Another victim, Muntinlupa City resident Lawrence Star Cuenca, told the Inquirer that Salanguit had introduced herself as a freelance travel agent from Morning Express Travel when they met in December last year.

From March to May last week, Cuenca and his girlfriend were able to fly to Thailand, Hong Kong and Boracay through the travel packages Salinguit offered them.

Cuenca said each time they paid for these travel packages, Salanguit would give them an official receipt with the Morning Express travel agency’s name.

But he noticed that the suspect never accepted credit card payments or checks, but only money transfers and deposits. At other times, Cuenca said he had to meet with the suspect and pay her personally.  The victim saw nothing wrong with the arrangement.

“We trusted her because she knew my girlfriend’s office mate, and we were able to go on three trips with her help,” he said.

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Salinguit further hooked Cuenca and his girlfriend when she offered them a free vacation if they were able to get 10 other groups to book trips through her.

It was a deal they couldn’t pass up, said Cuenca and they referred Salinguit to 10 groups of persons and got a free trip to Boracay last week.  But to his dismay, he found out that none of the people he referred to was able to travel and had asked for a refund of the P330,000 they paid.

Only when employees at Morning Express called him on Friday to report to the MPD-GAS  did Cuenca find out Salinguit had stopped working for Morning Express since last year.

SPO1 John Cayetano, case investigator, said more victims are lodging a complaint against Salanguit. Their complaints were similar: Salanguit would ask for money to make their local or international travel arrangements and the trip would never take place.

“I suspect she (Salanguit) has preyed on more than a hundred victims. The complaints keep pouring in.  She may have duped these people of more than a million pesos since last year,” Cayetano pointed out.

Investigators found that the  suspect was a former reservation officer of the Morning Express travel agency so she had access to the receipts and was able to misrepresent herself as an active employee of the company.

Salanguit is detained at the MPD-GAS holding cell pending the filing of charges of qualified theft, usurpation of authority, and multiple counts of estafa against her before the city prosecutor’s office.

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TAGS: Crime, Philippines - Metro, Travel & commuting
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